Toyota Presents Oakdale Theater, Wallingford

#22 of 73 in Nightlife in Connecticut
Theater · Concert / Show
Built on an alfalfa field in 1954 by original founder Ben Segal, the original Oakdale was part of the "theatre-in-the-round" craze that saw many circular stages open in various parts of the Northeast. A family owned business for decades, it began primarily as a summer stock venue, hosting many of the musicals of the day – “Kiss Me Kate”, “South Pacific”, “Oklahoma” to mention a few – with many of Broadway’s brightest stars like John Raitt, Danny Kaye, James Garner and Ethel Merman.

In the 60's, Oakdale evolved into a summer concert venue where the likes of Harry Belafonte, Paul Anka, Steve & Eydie, Tom Jones, and more played to the open air crowds every summer – sometimes for 2 weeks at a time! Musical tastes changed in the late 60's and Oakdale rocked and rolled with Cream, The Who, The Doors and even Led Zeppelin, all playing live on the spinning stage.

The 60's and early 70's was the heyday for Oakdale. The wood dome which now acts as the lobby was erected in 1972 and the seating capacity was increased from 1700 to 3200. The biggest entertainers of the day made Oakdale a must play on their summer rosters. Keep in mind: this was prior to the arenas that opened in Hartford and New Haven, and decades before casinos! Staples every summer were Englebert Humperdinck, Liberace, The Carpenters, Dolly Parton and comedians like Don Rickles and Rich Little.

In the 80’s and 90's, the "theatre in the round" was facing stiff competition in the entertainment industry. Many of the current performers were not particularly fond of a spinning stage, and it was getting more and more difficult to bring Connecticut audiences their favorite artists. Stars were demanding paydays that only larger venues could afford. Oakdale marched on and began presenting more country artists, a genre that, at the time, was not arena-friendly. Oakdale was the place where the Nutmeg State got its first taste of an emerging force in music as it became home to The Judds, Reba McEntire, Clint Black, Randy Travis, and Alan Jackson.

In 1997, the current Oakdale Theatre was built, transforming the old in-the-round space into the gracious lobby and adding a 4600-seat theatre with a proscenium stage that would now rival any entertainment center in the Northeast. Country duo Brooks & Dunn opened the then-new theatre on July 7, 1997.

With the new shape came the big stars: Sting, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Springsteen, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, Robin Williams, Coldplay, Josh Groban, Jerry Seinfeld - all of whom played the magnificent new theatre to sold-out crowds. The new theatre also afforded Oakdale to present Broadway-sized shows as the new stage was able to hold the large sets. “Riverdance”, “42nd St”, “Grease”, “The Producers”, “Seussical”, “Movin’ Out” and more were all part of the Broadway Series that ran for 10 years.

Family programming has always been a large part of Oakdale's history. The Wednesday matinee children’s shows introduced many of Connecticut’s youngest residents to their first theatrical production. Since then, Barney, The Wiggles, Dora the Explorer, The Backyardigans and Rugrats all have enjoyed wild success with kids and families from all over the state.

Legendary CT promoter Jim Koplik joined the Oakdale family in 1998, as we became part of Live Nation, the largest entertainment company in the world. In recent years, Maroon 5 and John Mayer have started their careers here, and Britney Spears headlined on her first tour in 1999. Drake, the Jonas Brothers, Diana Krall, Kathy Griffin, Avenged Sevenfold, and Keith Urban have all played to sold-out crowds in the past few years.

From Danny Kaye to Don Rickles, Barney to Britney, and The Doors to Drake, the old alfalfa field that turned into one of the region’s premier concert venues has seen its share of stars. The next time history is made at Oakdale, will you be there?
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Toyota Presents Oakdale Theater reviews

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138 reviews
  • Parking was a nightmare!! I have handicap parking and told that none was available. There was plenty of parking close to theater if I wanted to pay $20. Not right. Then after we got to the door we.....  more »
  • We bought tickets to see Beautiful and sat in the second row balcony. The show was great although we were very far away from the stage. Tickets are reasonably price until you add in all the fees. We....  more »
  • My first time there, drove from Long Island. This place is amazing. All employees were nice and friendly. The place is super clean. A nice size venue. We saw NF 9/18/19 and it was a great concert! Would definitely do again
  • The Oakdale Theatre has been around for generations. I first went there when it was in "the round". The venue itself is pretty darn nice with not really a bad seat in the house (except for the wings). It's clean with plenty of bathrooms. The one complaint is: during a concert (Dream Theatre), the staff didn't do their job. They let people just walk up the isles from the back and block views. If you have a ticket stay in your seat, sit down and chill. Don't ruin the view for people who paid for front row sections. The parking is ample. In and out quick.
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